Arts & Entertainment Editor
It’s a slam. But it has nothing to do with basketball or any other sport. Although it still carries every ounce of competitive nature that sports have, if not more. This is a Poetry Slam where people drop the ball and pick up the pen to show off their literary talents. Last Thursday, May 9 in the Black Box Theater located in the Mertes Center for the Arts, LPC students proved that they have talent in the 10th annual LPC Poetry Slam.
Now there are about 130 seats in the Black Box Theater give or take a few, and almost every seat was filled, along with some sitting on the ground. Many people have heard the saying the pen is mightier than the sword. Whether that’s true or not, the students proved how powerful the written word can be.
Most would think that it’s scary to recite the poetry of their personal experiences, but the energy of the Slam was made for poets, bringing the best out of them. Everyone was polite and encouraging to those on stage. The audience was moved to tears a few times during the Slam. One woman cried and clutched a couple of the performers as they left the center of the stage. There were times when every person stood up from their seats applauding at the end of a poem to show the Poet how much their poetry kept them at the edge of their seats.
“We want people’s strong opinions. You need to have strong opinions because it IS a Poetry Slam. If you aren’t engaged and you aren’t interested, if you’re not involved in what’s happening on stage, it’s going to be boring as hell,” Charles Ellik, the Poetry Slam announcer, said.
For some people, they think of depressed people dressed in all black, sitting on a bar stool reading mediocre poetry and people snapping their fingers when each poet is done. This is the farthest thing from the lively energy produced by the poets and audience alike at the Slam. The microphone stand was often used as a prop, some sinking down to their knees holding it like an anchor; others straddled it like an impassioned lover, all of this adding life and charisma to the stage that was anything but boring.
To judge the Poetry Slam, five people were selected randomly from the crowd and given scoreboards to rate each poet. The scoreboards had flip cards ranging from one to ten, decimals included. After a poet was done the judges would hold up their cards and scores were added up. Then at the end of the night, three winners were announced. The Milanese Family Grant, set up by LPC’s former Vice President Don Milanese, sponsors the prize money for the winners.
Third place with a prize of $20 went to Jacquelyn Velles. Third place for $30 went to Emekam Ngene. Finally, first place for $50 went to Kylee Liddle. But there is more to the winners than what meets the eye. Each of their poems reflects the obstacles in life that they have faced.
Jacquelyn (Third Place)
As she took the stage to accept her prize for her poem “Who am I?” she seemed as calm and confident as anyone can be.
“Make love often,” were her words of wisdom as she left the stage.
She wasn’t sure if she could do the Poetry Slam after hearing about it from her poetry professor Toby Bielawski, but her fellow students encouraged her. Some of her confidence also came from another teacher, Richard Dry. He helped her find her inner voice and figure out how to put how she feels and what’s in her mind and transform it into the written word.
“Much of what I write is inspired by the negative cards I’ve been dealt throughout my life and the chance to express my struggles in how I play my cards out now in this game of life,” Velles said.
She hopes to start a poetry club next semester and inspire a new wave of LPC poets.
Emekam (Second Place)
“Now I know that the soul of my sister is resting in peace. Now I know that the education she dreamt of is a reality,” Ngene said when he accepted prize.
Education is very important to him. He is originally from the poverty of Nigeria where life is tough from the start.
“The children of Africa face challenges deep inside their mother’s womb,” Ngene said, “the delivery is not hygienic.”
Ngene is the second of four children but the age difference between him and his older sister, Rose, is 17 years. This is because his parents lost five children before him. Nigeria doesn’t have the medical supplies most first world countries have. So it’s not uncommon for women to lose their babies.
“When I grew up and began question why, why did my parents have to go through what they did in having children,” Ngene said.
However, since the he comes from a land of tradition rather than education they did not know why they lost their children. The people started to come up with their own reasons to explain the death of his father’s children. His father left the traditional religion and converted to Christianity.
Ngene said that people would tell his father, “You have left the God that we worship. Now the foreign God that you have is killing your children.” But his dad insisted on his new faith.
By the time his mother was pregnant with him, the Nigerians were sure that his father was being punished for abandoning their God. They would say, “shame on you, you don’t keep faith with our God. This one will also die.”
“My father say,” Ngene said, “‘God is gracious to me. There are some who don’t have kids at all but my wife does have kids. The problem is that the kids die.’”
Ngene didn’t die; he lived, which is how he got his name. His father gave him an African name because African names usually come with meaning. His father named him Chukwuemekam, which means “God is gracious to me.”
When he was a boy and sick with the measles his older sister took him from poverty and helped him get as much education as he could. Which is why he wrote the poem “Garbage Boy” in honor of his sister, Rose. But there’s a deeper meaning to “Garbage Boy” than just the feeling it produces in the listeners and readers. It’s about the struggles of Africa.
“It’s not all about myself, I see that garbage as the bane of my homeland. Let’s go and educate them and save their souls there,” Ngene said. “The leaders that kill their own people, that’s garbage.”
Ngene plans to do just that: Go back to Nigeria with all he’s learned from being in America and educate them, help save those from his homeland and pull them out of the garbage.
Kylee (First Place)
At the end of the night, it was no surprise when Kylee’s name was called for first place because after her performance, the crowd stood on their feet and didn’t stop for a few minutes. One woman stood up with tears streaming down her face and hugged her.
The words she said as she left the stage were just as memorable as her poem
“I’m a book, torn and frayed in a language nobody can tongue, but I am an open book,” Liddle said.
Although this was her first Poetry Slam, it wasn’t the first she performed her poem. She performed it once before at a hookah bar, but she felt it was a little too heavy for the usual light mood of the bar. Which was the opposite of how the audience reacted at the Poetry Slam.
Her poem “The R Word” is based off her life experiences as a teenager and all the events she’s gone through.
“My freshman year was very difficult, I was diagnosed with O.C.D, anxiety and depression,” Liddle said. “My dad paid for me to have my own apartment my freshman year because my mom and I have never gotten along. She didn’t want me to live with her anymore.”
It almost seems like every kid’s dream, to have a place of his or her own with no parental supervision. She had the ability to do whatever she wanted because her mother was out of her life and her father was traveling all the time. So unwanted parents arriving was never a problem. However, despite the teenage dream, she became depressed and started to cut herself.
“When I was really depressed, I was able to write a lot,” Liddle said.
She eventually went to rehab for cutting and got the help she needed. She’s completely turned around and blossomed into fine, young lady despite the troubles she faced in her early years.